November 12, 2015
Dear Friend of Israel,
On November 11, 1919, one year after the end of World War I – a war so brutal and bloody that it became known as “The Great War” – President Woodrow Wilson proclaimed a public holiday, Armistice Day, to honor those who died in this terrible conflict. Declaring that “the reflections of Armistice Day will be filled with solemn pride in the heroism of those who died in the country’s service and with gratitude for the victory,” Wilson enshrined a holiday that, in 1954, became known as Veterans Day, a day to honor all servicemen and women, both past and present. I hope that, like me, on Veterans Day yesterday you were able to pause and give thanks to the veterans in your life and offer gratitude to God for the ones who fought to secure the rights and freedoms we hold dear.
It has become a cliché to say that “freedom is not free,” but certainly history – and, for those with loved ones who have served their country and died in war, painful personal experience – teaches us that freedom is bought with blood and sacrifice. Perhaps this is why many countries, not just the U.S., set aside a day to remember those who fought and died in wars. In Israel, that day is Yom HaZikaron, or Israel Memorial Day, which is observed in the spring. In England, and in Canada, on Remembrance Day, which takes place on November 11, the entire country observes two minutes of silence in honor of their war dead (this is also an Israeli custom on Yom HaZikaron).
Public observances like Veterans Day are important because they instill in us a healthy sense of gratitude for our soldiers. In the normal rush of everyday life, it is all too easy for us to take what we have for granted. Too often, we forget that our lives are not wholly our own – they are built on a foundation of God’s goodness and grace, and the blood, toil, and heroic sacrifice of others. In the midst of the wave of terror attacks gripping Israel, we have been given stark reminders of that sacrifice and a renewed gratitude for those who serve and protect us every day. We pause to honor and celebrate that heroism on Veterans Day, and hopefully carry forth that awareness and appreciation throughout the entire year. In fact, I am so proud that IFCJ supports Israel’s veterans through programs that help them and their spouses cope with PTSD and other effects from their service.
On the heels of Veterans Day yesterday, please join me in taking a moment to give thanks to God for our fighting men and women, who are sent into some of the most dangerous corners of the world to fight a cold and unforgiving foe. Pray for their protection and guidance. Give thanks, too, for our true allies like Israel, who stand shoulder to shoulder with us in the war against terrorism, and whose young men and women also place their lives on the line daily. And pray for the day when God will bless all of His creation with his most precious gift – the gift of shalom, peace.
Rabbi Yechiel Eckstein
Founder and President
Help IFCJ support Israel’s victims of terror and stay up-to-date on events in Israel during this time of crisis by going to ifcj.org/Crisis. And please share this website with your family, friends, and church members.